Consistency and continuity are key

OPEC Bulletin Commentary September 2019

After a summer lull, the autumn energy meeting and events calendar ramped up into full swing during September. Two of the focal points were the World Energy Congress (WEC) and the 16th Meeting of the OPEC-non-OPEC Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC), both of which were held in Abu Dhabi during the week of September 9–13. Then on September 14, the 5th Iraq Energy Forum was held in Baghdad.

The OPEC Secretary General, Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, was one of the busiest men in town that week, delivering major speeches, participating in high-level panel discussions, speaking to the international media and holding countless bilateral meetings with OPEC and non-OPEC leaders and officials.

The week started with a jolt, as the Secretary General, upon his arrival in Abu Dhabi, received the news of Saudi Arabia appointing HRH Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Salman as the new Minister of Energy. The Minister was appointed in time to attend the WEC and serve as Chairman of the JMMC Meeting.

Through his remarks and in personal meetings, the Secretary General welcomed the new Saudi Minister with open arms, while praising the lasting legacy of his predecessor Khalid A Al-Falih.

In addressing the JMMC, Barkindo said of HRH Prince Abdul Aziz: “This is the first time we convene under the chairmanship of His Royal Highness; a gentleman who for the past 32 years has consistently been the face of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at OPEC, representing the country in the best possible light; a consummate diplomat, a skilled negotiator, an inspirational leader, and a true oil industry expert.”

In speaking to the press, Prince Abdul Aziz said Saudi Arabia would continue working with its non-OPEC partners for balance and stability in the oil market, adding that this unprecedented international energy cooperation was “staying for the long term.”

To the outgoing Minister Al-Falih, Barkindo said: “We are all conscious of the role which he played in making the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ process a resounding success. Everyone in the OPEC-plus family owes him a debt of gratitude and the history books will judge him highly and favourably.”

In Abu Dhabi, the Secretary General also had the opportunity to welcome the newly appointed Nigerian Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, to the OPEC family. This was Sylva’s first time attending a JMMC Meeting as Head of Nigeria’s OPEC delegation.

At these and a host of other official and off-the-record bilateral meetings, there seemed to be one common message or theme throughout: the importance of consistency and continuity, and ensuring we do not lose sight of the big picture.

Naturally, change and uncertainty were in the air at the week’s events, especially considering the current jittery oil market situation with mounting geopolitical strife, softening demand and lagging trade disputes.

Despite this, however, the consistently reassuring and unified tone and messaging of the OPEC Secretary General, the new Saudi Minister, and, of course, his Russian counterpart in the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’, Energy Minister Alexander Novak, helped provide the market with a welcome sense of stability.

The official communiqué released during the JMMC press conference also heralded the need for steady, consistent and responsible actions to promote a lasting stability in the oil market.

“Despite this challenging backdrop [uncertainty], the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ partnership continues to serve as a beacon of dependability and consistency in the global oil market, thereby providing reassurances for producers, consumers and global economy.”

As the week drew to a close, the work of the Secretary General was not yet complete. From Abu Dhabi, he boarded a plane to Baghdad for meetings with the Iraqi leadership and a speaking engagement at the 5th Iraq Energy Forum. In his remarks, he once again reinforced the value of maintaining a consistent and methodical approach in addressing current and future challenges.

“With regard to market prospects in the immediate term, market fundamentals remain solid,” he explained. “While challenges to global economic growth remain, particularly within the sphere of trade-related tensions, the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ partners have repeatedly demonstrated, through words and deeds, their unwavering commitment to taking whatever action necessary in pursuit of sustainable oil market stability.”

OPEC Bulletin September 2019

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